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How a Corporate Narrative Engages Employees, Stake Holders, Partners, and Customers

What is the Story You Want to Tell?

Who are you?

Who are you?

Though it kind of sounds like a cheesy pick up line, it’s how your customers, partners, and employees interact, every day, with your organization – on a human, personal level. This is called corporate narrative.

Who you are as an organization doesn’t mean, “what do you do?” It goes way beyond that.

The corporate narrative of any organization “inspires employees, excites partners, attracts customers, and engages influencers.” (Bonchek, Mark, How to Build a Strategic Narrative, Harvard Business Review , March 25, 2016.)

Creating a corporate narrative, and embedding it into the company culture must be strategic. Engagement surveys often reveal that organizations missing strong narratives and company culture can lose valuable employees. An earlier post touched on creating a strong organization culture , and how an organization’s “story” is essential to building the culture.

An organization faces the challenge of not only building a narrative, but also maintaining it, then communicating it so that the organization, its partners, employees and customers live the narrative. This doesn’t “just happen.”

As with all storytelling, there are structural components to narratives. But don’t get caught up in the art of storytelling, as there are critical differences between stories and narratives.

1. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Narratives are open-ended. As they should be! Your organization is still alive, breathing, and there are many plot twists and turns left to experience.

2. Don’t confuse an open-ended story with a narrative! Narratives are about the people the organization is trying to reach. A story is ego-centric, about the teller or “others”. We were small. We grew. We overcame. We’ll grow more. Sure, that’s a great Horatio Alger storyline, destined for Hollywood, but it’s one that excludes the most important component of a narrative -- the target customers, the partners, the clients, the employees.

Some of the greatest corporate narratives are condensed into just a few lines.

1. The Third Place: Starbuck’s narrative is one that focuses on the us … a third place to be, to sit with friends, to listen to great music – that essential place between home and work. Starbuck’s CEO and founder took this idea from Europe that has a history of cafes and “third places”. The idea of a third place became Starbuck’s corporate narrative and catapulted it to the top.

2. Think Different: To say Apple is one of the most successful brands on the planet is a gross understatement. But their slogan, Think Different, gets to the heart of narrative. It’s all about us and those who identify with this idea of different.

3. Just Do It: Again, the narrative fits in a slogan that inspires and defines not only Nike but her customers, share holders, and employees that buy into this narrative. It’s inspiring. It’s challenging. And it’s all about us.

4. Life Tastes Good, Make it Real, Open Happiness, Taste the Feeling: Coca Cola is a master at creating a narrative that makes us want to participate! We always feel like Coca Cola is telling our story. And they have 130 years of slogans and narratives that strategically work toward telling the organization’s story with us!

We’ve just had a little taste of the importance of narrative. In the next blog, we’re going to discuss strategic ways to build a successful, coherent corporate narrative and boost engagement with your organization.




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